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Clubs lose battle over refusal of sexual entertainment venue licence

The owners of two lap dancing clubs have lost a High Court challenge over a city council’s decision to refuse to renew their sexual entertainment venue (SEV) licences.

Leeds City Council had introduced a policy in 2013 that reduced the limit of SEVs in the area from seven to four. It subsequently received six applications, refusing three and granting three.

Bean Leisure, owner of the ‘Wildcats’ club, and Ruby May, owner of the ‘Deep Blue’ venue, brought judicial review proceedings after missing out on a licence. They both advanced eight grounds of challenge after the local authority.

But in Bean Leisure Trading A Ltd, R (On the Application Of) v Leeds City Council [2014] EWHC 878 Mr Justice Stuart-Smith rejected the claims.

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He said: “The council was entitled to reach the conclusions it did, which were in accordance with its published policy. Its decisions were rational and proportionate.”

Bean Leisure had wanted to include a ninth ground of challenge – namely that the SEV policy introduced by Leeds in 2013 was unlawful and therefore the refusal set against that policy was also unlawful.

The court took the view that this would have added undue delay, and so refused to allow this ground to be added.

Woods Whur, who are advising Bean Leisure, said a second judicial review had been lodged with the court as the company sought to challenge the lawfulness of the policy.

Cllr Graham Hyde, acting chair of the licensing committee at Leeds, said: “We are pleased that Mr Justice Stuart-Smith saw fit to accept our original decision to not renew the licences of Wildcats and Deep Blue. He acknowledged that our decisions were rational and proportionate and were in accordance with our published policy. 

“Our policy was drawn up after significant public consultation which concluded that the number of sexual entertainment venues in the city centre is a maximum of four providing those premises are not near properties with sensitive uses or in sensitive locations.”

Commenting on the ruling, law firm John Gaunt & Partners said: “The thrust of the judgment in the Leeds case is that their policy was constructed properly taking into account consultation results and was therefore valid, the renewal process and committee decisions were in turn rational and proportionate.

“The reasons given by the committee were also commended and aided the court in reaching their decision to reject the applications. This separately re-affirms the need for committee to give good reasons in all licensing matters.

 

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